This is just a quick ‘cobbled-together-between-working’ report about Ben Alder in response to Murphy999’s question on the General Discussion page. So there’s no photos as I didn’t have my camera with me, and also it’s not particularly nicely written being meant to be just illustrative. It was also quite a few years ago that I did these hills so I’m going from very sketchy memory.
Okay, I didn’t do this in winter, it was in August… My friend Mark and I walked in to Culra bothy on the first day. I wasn’t used to carrying a ‘big pack’ for bothying so found it a long walk and it took probably around 3 to 4 hours. We’d driven up from England the same day and arrived at the bothy around teatime (probably about 16 or 1700).
The next morning we probably set off walking around 0900 (all these probablys are because it was quite a few years back now) . We followed the path past the cottage next door to the bothy and off round into the valley to the north of Ben Alder (between there and Lancet Edge on Sgor Iutharn) until we were just passing the end of the Long Leachas. We then forded the river and headed off up rough, pathless ground onto the end of the Leachas ridge.
From there we ascended the ridge on a good path. In summer the ridge kept rearing up in steep steps (not rocky ones though) and kept looking impossible. However, when you got there, you found the path negotiated each step with an easy zig-zag through the heather. Towards the top of the ridge, it got rockier and a bit narrower but was never anything my mountain cowardice couldn’t cope with. By now we were in mist… Now, while this ridge was very easy in summer, I’m not sure I’d say the same about it if I was to attempt it in winter due to the steepness of the sides, the steepness of the steps up and the narrowness towards the top. I’m not sure I would attempt it in winter in fact as I prefer to stick to the wider, grassier stuff myself!
When we arrived on the edge of the summit plateau we were in thick mist but it was an easy enough job to navigate to the summit. It’s a very easy walk from the edge of the plateau to the summit anyway as it’s really not very steep at all, so we were there in 10-15 minutes. From the summit, we didn’t really know what to do for a route down but in the end, picked a fairly cragless route down the mountain by heading SE along to Sron Bealach Beithe, then I think we followed the river going down south from there (as opposed to the more easterly one).
From the foot of the mountain we headed NE up to Sron Coire na h’ Iolaire (easy climb and nice hill). From there it was an easy walk along the ridge in the same direction to Beinn Bheoil (these 2 hills would be fine in winter). By now the cloud had cleared and we were getting superb views down to Loch Ericht and also across to the Long & Short Leachas on Alder – hurray! We continued in the same direction, dropping down the northern ridge, over the next unnamed lump and then headed off down NW on easy ground to the path from the Bealach Beithe.
As mentioned before, my friend wasn’t having a great day and, by the time we got back to the bothy, it was late afternoon… While I wasn’t by any means exhausted, the thought of a walk out back to Dalwhinnie with my big pack definitely wouldn’t have appealed to me! We were hoping to do some more Munros the next day anyway until the weather shafted us. So we walked out the next day in torrential rain after giving it all morning to slacken off and it not doing. My right shoulder, being totally unused to a ‘big pack’ gave me so much gip on the last few miles I was feeling sick (in case you’re wondering, my left shoulder is used to carrying my massive work handbag so is well used to it!)
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Warning Please note that hillwalking when there is snow lying requires an ice-axe, crampons and the knowledge, experience and skill to use them correctly. Summer routes may not be viable or appropriate in winter. See winter information on our skills and safety pages for more information.